The effects of sitting vs. standing

We previously referenced the NY Times article about the ill effects of spending too much of our days sitting down when we shared our fitness/productivity tip of holding company running meetings.  This same topic has become pertinent again for Night Train Consulting recently.

For the last 3 months, Alan has been on the other side of the world helping Tibetans (young and old) become better social entrepreneurs, as I frantically attempted to keep our engine running (sorry…) here in the states and move my family to Charlottesville.  Given our hectic schedules, neither of us ran at all for about 3 months.  It soon became apparent how out of shape I had become on the first (and second, and third…) run back after the hiatus.  What’s interesting is that my hope of commiseration from Alan upon his return to the trails was soon dashed as he easily slid back into running form.

On one of our recent (though, much shorter) running meetings, we speculated as to why this might be the case.  During the 3 months, our fitness routines were roughly similar (read: non-existant).  Before the hiatus, both of us had been running 10-15 miles at a time together, and in the past, we have taken similar amounts of time to get back into shape after various injuries and fitness gaps.  We narrowed the difference down to the fact that while I spent most of the last few months sitting at my desk on the computer each day, Alan was on his feet at conferences and in the classroom most days.  Certainly, there were other factors, but it struck us that the major difference in our fitness levels after the hiatus seemed to be due to the effects of sitting vs standing.

Thinking back, we both remembered experiencing similar effects from extended periods of sitting and/or standing we had been through in the past.  And, while much of this is speculation on our part, various studies are showing similar results.  This correlation pops up in another experience of mine a few years ago.  I entered one summer, after high school, in great shape from soccer, subsequently spent all summer working 70 hours a week (with basically no exercise), and somehow ended the summer in the same shape as I had started.  It would be easy to chalk this up to a youthful body, but I endured similar periods of time where I went off exercising and was not standing, and then did not remain in shape.  As with this past summer, the major difference during that workaholic summer was that both of my jobs required that I stand up for much of the time (for the curious: parking lot attendant, and short order cook).

In an effort to better test this idea, I have decided to build myself a standing desk (buying one seems to be an all too expensive endeavor for some reason), and document the results of the switch.  Alan has also taken to using whatever counters or tables are available to him each day to do the same.  He feels more focused during his work days and also more tired at the end of the day.

Have you noticed a change in how you feel after either spending extended periods of sitting down versus standing up?  Any tips for those of us who work jobs that require long periods of sitting?


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